Nigeria’s Ministry Of Women Affairs Files Court Order To Halt Planned Mass Wedding

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Concerns are raised that some of the girls may be underaged.
Mediaage NG News – ABUJA, Nigeria (Saturday 18th May, 2024)

The Nigeria Women Affairs Ministry has filed a court order to stop the planned mass wedding of about 100 orphans in the north western state of Niger.

Head of the Ministry, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye said the wedding must be stopped. She said the girls “deserve better” and her department was looking into who the 100 girls are, their ages and whether they consented to the marriage.

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Her Ministry she said will offer the girls education and training, she said, adding that if the Niger State speaker attempts to block these efforts “there will be a serious legal battle between him and the Ministry of Women Affairs”.

Some of the girls are feared to be underaged and are set to be married off on the 24th of April, 2024. This has sparked widespread outrage across Nigeria.

The girls have all lost their parents to attacks by armed bandits, who regularly target civilians across the state.

Some reports say the mass wedding is backed by the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, who said local religious leaders had approached him for help funding it.

Also, the Imams Forum of Niger have said that the marriage ceremony should go ahead, insisting that the girls are not below the 18 – the legal age of marriage.

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Some Nigerians have expressed concern that some girls may be younger than 18, or being forced to comply for financial gain.

On Friday, senior presidential aide Abiodun Essiet reiterated Ms Kennedy-Ohanenye’s plan of action.

Ms Essiet added: “My appeal to all stakeholders is to stop embarking on policies and programs that exploit economically handicapped vulnerable people, increase and recycle poverty, and deepen ignorance.”

Human rights activists in Nigeria have launched a petition to stop the plan. As of Friday evening, it has 10,500 signatures.

According to international campaign group Girls Not Brides, 30% of girls and 1.6% of boys in Nigeria are married before the age of 18. Some 12% of girls are married before their 15th birthday.

Child marriages are most common in the northern part of the country, among poor, rural households. It is seen as a way to reduce their families’ financial burdens or to improve political and social alliances.

Northern Nigeria is mostly Muslim and religious and cultural norms, such as polygamy, favour the practice.

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